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Letters to the editor

Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Hard work for unfair wages forces good caregivers to leave

I applaud Aims C. Coney Jr. and Chip Peters for their March 22 article on fair pay for caregivers for the mentally retarded ("Fair Pay for Precious Work").

With today's booming economy, why should anyone expect anything less than a fair wage? Yet, in Pennsylvania, a fair wage is not even an option for the hard-working staff at agencies that serve children and adults with mental retardation. These people earn poverty-level wages, yet work so hard to make small or sometimes dramatic improvements in the lives of the people they serve.

I know firsthand that their task is a difficult one. I've witnessed their amazing impact on my son over the past 27 years.

Unfortunately, many of these dedicated humanitarians are abandoning their work. The poverty-level wages force many to take on second jobs just to make ends meet. Just when my son becomes accustomed to new staff, they leave to earn more elsewhere. This is devastating to our loved ones and sets them back in their work toward independence.

When Gov. Ridge announced $853 million for mental retardation funding, I had hoped that, like other states, Pennsylvania would use these funds to improve existing salaries. No such luck. Not one dollar will be used to improve existing salaries.

Please, Gov. Ridge, consider all people with mental retardation living in Pennsylvania. Use that money to benefit those on the waiting list and those in existing programs. Improve existing salaries and keep qualified staff.


Editor's note: The writer is president of the Allegheny Valley School Parents Association, Robinson. Allegheny Valley School is a nonprofit residential facility for developmentally disabled people.

Emotional negotiations

I am writing regarding the recent tentative agreement between US Airways and the flight attendants union. I am a 20-year flight attendant.

As the sole supporter of my wife and our two children, I have found the experience nothing less than depressing and emotional for quite some time. After 20 years, I will not apologize for my middle-class income. For those of you who think we have it so great -- we're hiring. Beware, you'll pay your dues at the beginning.

I would like to publicly thank our fellow employees, customers and the news teams who have supported us through this roller coaster ride. Here's a "Bronx cheer" to those who felt that our negotiations, our salaries and our lives were open for the country to debate!

I would like to thank the management team and our negotiating committee for their hard work hammering out an agreement. It is a shame that so many people were affected by our negotiations. It is even worse that this could affect so many lives when this same agreement could have been settled long ago.

We have a great airline, with many great people. Please come back!


Beginning anew

Rarely does it occur these days that we find objectivity in the media concerning the Roman Catholic Church. Ann Rodgers-Melnick, who I understand is not Catholic, has done a great service to all by her fair presentation of the pope's apology ("Catholics, Protestants Mean Different Things by 'The Church'," March 18).

To be critical of the church when it is guilty, or at least when its members are, is one thing. But to accurately describe John Paul II and the church's need for resolution of past sins and to begin anew is to accurately convey the need to address the past with all of its failures.

Not to fear the truth is to clear the barriers that have risen over past events. I hope every religious group will come to grips with what divides us and realize that a beginning toward that end gives us all hope.


A welcome article

Ann Rodgers-Melnick's article on the meaning of the term "the church" was one of the best religious news articles I have read in the mainstream press ("Catholics, Protestants Mean Different Things by 'The Church'," March 18). It was thoughtful, helpful and insightful. Keep up the good work.

Bellevue, Neb.

Elian and injustice

When is justice an injustice? When the justice system tosses a child about, like a leaf in the wind, during his impressionable, formative years to provide justice to well-meaning relatives, who have no prioritized familial relationship with the child. This is justice misplaced. Justice will unite Elian Gonzalez with his father.

Washington, Pa.

About language education

I was pleased to see you feature Thekla Fall as your newsmaker in the March 20 Region section ("Language Proficiency Is Her Goal"). I agree with Bonnie Adair-Hauck, president of the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association, that Ms. Fall must be a "real dynamo," as evidenced by her progress in the Pittsburgh Public Schools to expand the foreign-language programs and to help students reach "survival level" speaking ability.

Ms. Fall's tireless efforts to bring foreign language as a centerpiece to the Pittsburgh Public Schools' offerings will no doubt enhance the system's reputation in general as well as directly benefit the students. Too often school boards and district administrators view languages (as well as the arts) as "fluff" and not a core portion of the curriculum, sadly to the great detriment of students.

Prior to moving to Pittsburgh in 1996, our son was enrolled for three years in a partial-immersion Japanese program offered through Fairfax County, Va., public schools. In this program, students in grades 1-6 are taught in Japanese half of the day for their math, science and health. The rest of the day is spent in language arts and social studies instruction, taught in English. The graduating sixth-graders take the appropriate level of Japanese as their language requirement in their middle and high school years.

I saw firsthand how early exposure to a foreign language benefited my son. He had little of the intimidation factor that older students have in trying the difficult pronunciations involved, and he thought of learning Japanese more as a game. Studies indicate that children who receive even a small amount of second-language instruction early on are more creative and better at solving complex problems.

I also can tell you that my husband's corporate experiences have convinced him that "intellectual flexibility" (a product of second-language exposure) is mandatory for success in today's information age.

Finally, my son's Japanese culture instruction in primary years gave him and all of our family a greater sensitivity to other cultures. You don't have to try "to teach" acceptance of cultural diversity when you open up a new world of friends and experiences for a young person through language sensitivity.

Ms. Adair-Hauck's Forum article Dec. 12 was titled "Teach Our Children Second Languages -- or Else." I urge parents to heed her warning and support her and Ms. Fall's efforts to adopt foreign-language standards for Pennsylvania. The adoption of such standards would send a message to school administrators and the corporate world alike that Pennsylvania's educational system adopts and fosters a world view.

Let's recognize the importance of starting second-language education early and offer effective follow-up language studies that stress survival-level oral proficiency.


Bly was from Armstrong

I believe there is an error in the March 21 "The Kids' Corner" feature, "Journalist Nellie Bly's Career Was Highlighted by Her Courage." The article states that she was from Cochran Mills, Centre County. I believe this is in error. "Cochran's Mills" is located in Armstrong County. I was there a few weeks ago, and a plaque has been erected there in her honor.

I'm not a "kid" anymore, but I still read "The Kids' Corner" for interesting tidbits of information.


Editor's note: The error occurred in the editing of the piece.

These government lawsuits are unfair

Is anyone out there as concerned as I am about what has happened to the tobacco industry and gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson? It seems to me that the Clinton administration advocates filing lawsuits against companies and industries in an effort to get them to agree to the policies and goals that the administration has not been able to achieve through our established legislative system.

In other words, if our representatives will not agree or pass legislation that the administration wants passed, the Clinton administration and others simply file groundless lawsuits against the industry or company that the failed legislation was targeting.

Knowing that the federal government has far larger legal resources than they, the defendants have no choice but to agree to the provisions of the administration or face a lengthy court fight that could put them out of business. Hence, the administration gets what it wants and does an end run around the established system of government that represents the people.

Kind of reminds me of the big bully on the playground who twisted your arm until you screamed uncle and agreed to his ways.

Write to your congressional representatives and ask them to support legislation that will make it illegal for the federal government to sue the gun industry and ask that the legislation be broadened to include all industries that are operating legally. Who knows, it might be your business or industry that gets targeted next.

Butler Township

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